Our body requires an array of micronutrients and macronutrients to function optimally. Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays many essential roles in the everyday functioning of our body. If your body is not getting adequate amounts of B12, it could lead to some serious consequences. Most people do not notice the deficiency as it takes years to develop. This means that you might struggle to notice the immediate changes. But it’s absolutely essential that you spot the condition as early as possible, as it can lead to some unwanted complications. Some people may go on to develop cognitive decline, nervous system damage, and even anaemia.
Though the Indian diet is considered highly nutritious, there are still common deficiencies among people due to a variety of reasons. While iron, vitamin D, vitamin A and iodine deficiencies are commonly spoken about, there is an often overlooked but nonetheless, persistent deficiency in the Indian diet- Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Around 74% of Indians are deficient in Vitamin B-12 (National Health Survey-5, 2020). Further, 50-55% of the population have a clinical deficiency of vitamin B-12 Despite such staggering statistics, there is a very little conversation happening around the subject.
So, what is Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that, unfortunately, is not made by the body. This vitamin is crucial for brain health, nerve tissue health, and the formation of red blood cells. The metabolism of every cell in the body depends on vitamin B-12, as it plays a part in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production. Vitamin B-12 maintains energy levels by helping the body absorb folic acid.
Role of Vitamin B-12:
- Helps the formation of red blood cells
- Improves energy levels
- Improves athletic performance
- Improves cognitive capacity & prevents brain damage
- Decreases depression
- Maintains eye health
- Improves heart health by reducing homocysteine levels
- Supports healthy skin, hair and nails
- May prevent birth defects
Signs and Symptoms of a B12 Deficiency
One of the most common warning signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency is having unusually pale or yellow skin. Further, low levels of B-12 in the diet initially show up as fatigue, depression, memory problems and confusion. Other symptoms include constipation and loss of appetite. Severe symptoms of persisting deficiencies include numbness in hands and legs, tingling sensations, anaemia, and even nerve damage. It is hence extremely important to have an adequate intake of B-12 in the diet.
Also Read: Food Options To Avoid Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Sources of Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is found only in animal-based sources. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, to some extent. This makes it difficult for vegetarians to meet the daily requirement of the vitamin, more so, especially for vegans. While there are supplements available in the market, they are not without side effects. Plus, there are very few vegan supplements available. Supplements can be Injections, oral or sublingual. Few common side effects of these supplements are gastric discomfort, bloating, feeling of fullness, etc.
Evidently, there is a pressing need for a solution that can provide RDA of vitamin B-12 in the Indian diet. It is very important to pick the right sources of the vitamin, and include them adequately in your diet. A good daily dose of Vitamin B-12 is a must!
About Author: Pariksha Rao is a clinical nutritionist with 14 years of experience across nutrition counselling, research, digital healthcare, patient support programs, pharmaceutical and public health sectors.
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